Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Dancer

On a sunny morning in June of 1976, a leggy blonde dancer stood facing me in my room. Her big eyes were wet. She asked me a question.

I stammered, “Wh – what?”

She repeated, in a small voice. “Do you ever get lonely?”

I may have been a yokel from small-town Wyoming, but I sensed opportunity here.

The dancer looked at her feet and said, “I just need somebody to hold me.”

Performing everyday is emotionally jolting. I knew she and I shared a loneliness and emptiness only two performers in the same company could know. We nearly lunged at each other in that initial embrace.

For hours, until nearly curtain time, we soothed each other like newborns. I comforted her and rocked her like her back ain’t got no bone. Our sweat mixed and pooled in the muscled crevices of her dancer’s belly. That was the only time, and we never spoke of it again.

Except it never happened. It all flashed through my mind in a microsecond as her words hung in the air. This beautiful young woman was lonely and needed someone to hold her. But I never touched her and I sent her on her way.

I mumbled that I had a girlfriend back home, that she and I were sort of engaged. Years later I kicked myself for this, knowing later the girlfriend was screwing around on me at almost that very minute, and we would last only a few more months together.

And what about me? What would happen to me if the dancer and I fell into each other’s arms? I fall in love with every woman I am intimate with, and love would have wrecked our summer. Her passion may have lasted until curtain time that night, or until the next morning, or through the week, but it would have surely been passing and temporary. Like a library book. But I would have still been in love.

I could relieve her of her loneliness, but only by bearing it for her. Misery passes among actors like a virus. Who would I pass it to?

That June morning is one of the great regrets of my life. Why didn’t I sweep the lonely dancer into my arms and make love with her? At the same time, it is also one of my proudest moments. I stayed faithful.

But maybe the dancer just needed a hug that morning. I wish I had given her one.